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Workplace Wellness

Workplace Wellness (2)

How to get more out of your work day?

Take a break!

In today’s deadline-oriented workplace, long hours and overflowing in baskets often mean working through breaks to get the job done. But recent studies indicate that taking regular breaks from mental tasks improves productivity and creativity. And in fact, not taking the time to step away for short breaks throughout the day can actually increase stress and lead to exhaustion.

In a study conducted by the University of Illinois in 2011, researchers found that simply taking two brief breaks enabled participants to stay focused. According to Psychology Professor Alejandro Lleras, lead researcher: “You start performing poorly on a task because you've stopped paying attention to it.” As a result Professor Lleras and his team propose that people deactivate and reactive goals to stay focused. “Our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!"

Another study on lunch break patterns amongst office workers, conducted by Univerity of Toronto also suggests that breaks, freely chosen by workers, can improve productivity. According to John Trougakos, Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour & HR Management, at the University of Toronto Scarborough  and the Rotman School of Management: “Mental concentration is like muscle. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover.”

Despite studies pointing to the benefits of taking breaks throughout the workday, many people still work through breaks and even take lunch at their desks while working.

Here are tips for quick breaks that make a difference:

1. Get up from your desk and walk around. During the winter months, this may just mean taking a walk to the cafeteria but in the summer months, enjoy the outdoors. Find a park and sit for a few minutes under a tree.

2. Step away from your desk for lunch. Try not to bring lunch back to your desk. Take 15 minutes to enjoy your meal away from your work area.

3. Eat a healthy meal. Try to avoid fast food and sweets for lunch. Protein helps boost energy. Greasy, carb laden foods cause afternoon sluggishness.

4. Drink Water. When you step away from your desk, fill up your water bottle. Water replenishes. It helps the kidneys function and energizes muscles. And it has no calories!

5. Take short stretch breaks. Remember your body as well as your mind. Sitting at a desk all day long can cause discomfort in our backs, necks and hips. So roll your chair away from your desk and find stretches to move your shoulders, open your hips and relieve back tension.

6. Remember to breathe. Yes of course you breathe. But when stressed, the breath becomes shallow or you may even hold your breath. By taking conscious deep breaths, your body settles into its natural state and eliminates stress response. The mind eases and the whole body relaxes. So simple!

7. Listen to Music. If you can, play your music softly at your workstation. If that’s not an option, bring along your favourite tunes to listen to when you go for a short walk.

8. Read something non-work related. Take a few minutes, to read something for pleasure. You’ll find it clears the mind.

9. Turn off your cell phone. Even if only for a half hour. The constant barrage of text messages, calls and even multiple emails, can drain energy. Taking a reprieve from your cell phone doesn’t have to be ignoring the communication, shutting off for a short time.

10. Laugh for a few minutes with a co-worker. Not only does laughter change your perspective, it also has positive health benefits. It relaxes the whole body. It boosts the immune system, triggers the relief of endorphins as well as improves blood vessel function and increases the blood flow to benefit the heart.  And it’s fun.

11. Unclutter your desk. Clearing clutter can help calm the mind. Looking at an overflowing in basket can be overwhelming. Having a clean work area can free our mind to concentrate on the task at hand, improving productivity. 

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Making Time for Office Yoga

In May 2013, 3PLQS joined the ranks of Forbes, Nike, Apple, Google and other Fortune 500 companies by offering employees a chance to practice yoga at the office. For almost seven months, employees have signed up for lunchtime classes offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays (choice of two classes each day). While not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to step away from their desk to stretch and de-stress, employees who do practice regularly are already appreciating the many benefits of yoga.

According to Charlene, a Call Centre Specialist with TQS Logistics division, practicing yoga has helped her better manage stiffness, pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis of the spine.  “Although I was very afraid to start yoga, I pushed forward to try it and give it all I have. To my surprise, I am truly amazed at the benefits of incorporating Yoga into my daily lifestyle. I have now become addicted to practicing and really could not do without it,” she says. “Yoga has made me feel stronger, more flexible, along with a feeling of release in the body and mind. I also sleep much better at night.”

For Joseph, a Business Analyst with the TQS Technology division, yoga had been on his ‘to do’ list to complement his more intense workout sessions at the gym. While he admits to being a bit leery of its benefits at first, he quickly embraced his practice. “The sessions were hard initially (in fact they still are most of the time) but my body learned to adjust. I learned that practicing diligently on the fundamentals improved my overall wellbeing,”

Ivona, a Web Designer for 3PLQS, thought yoga might help alleviate some issues with her hip and shoulder. “I’ve noticed subtle changes in my body, with my hip and shoulder problems I have to be really careful when doing some poses. But I am feeling stronger overall, my arm strength has improved and I am becoming more flexible. Yoga is hard, very challenging but it is rewarding too. You feel better after each class and less stressed.”

Some days, the biggest challenge is showing up on the mat to practice. Not surprisingly, last minute work emergencies arise and conflict with class schedules. Because classes are small, participants are able to communicate with everyone and either delay a class or rearrange their schedule to take the later class. There are times when someone will have to skip a class, but it doesn’t happen often. Most participants have discovered that rather than take away from the work day, yoga actually helps rejuvenate energy levels for the afternoon work schedule.

“Some days your day may run a bit longer or it may be more hectic but if it’s important to you, you will find a way (to practice yoga),” Charlene says. “I am very grateful and thankful for yoga and hope to aspire to a greater lifestyle because of practicing.”

As an employer, Chris Mattice, President of 3PLQS, chose to offer yoga within the workplace as a means to promote employee health and well-being. “Employees need time to step away from their desk to stretch and relax. Yoga is the ideal activity for this because it offers the chance to do both. It also has an added side benefit of allowing employees to interact in a non-work situation. Overall, I’m very pleased with the results,” he says. Chris also takes the time join a class as well as encouraging employees to step away from their desk to keep their commitment to yoga. “Personally, I have noticed an improvement in my own flexibility as well as a greater sense of ease in managing stress.”

Moving beyond the six month mark, yoga has definitely integrated into the corporate culture. And yogis are discovering how a yoga practice reaches beyond the mat.  Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of breathing mindfully.

According to Ivona, “I started to be more conscious about my breathing and using breathing exercises throughout the day. It helps me relax and de-stress.”

Yoga brought subtle changes to Joseph’s day-to-day life. “I have made a conscious effort to apply yoga practices in my everyday life. All of a sudden the 400 series highway traffic stress could be alleviated by focused breathing,” he says. “Yoga really has penetrated into my life. I enjoy mornings when rather than moving around stiffly after waking up, I can do a few rounds of Sun Salutation to limber up.”

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